Yesterday the Chicago Cubs made their first move of the season as they bought the contract of Clayton Richard from the Pittsburgh Pirates, he will start tonight in place of Donn Roach. This is a move that did not wow many fans, probably not any as Richard is not exactly a good pitcher; but he might be better than Roach who was demoted to make room for him.
The 31 year old pitcher is a six year veteran, but has not pitched in the Majors since 2013, instead he has been throwing in the Minors having mixed success. In 2014 he looked about as bad as you can get, but this season he seems to have figured things out, at least a little bit. Pitching in High A Bradenton he went 0-1 without an ERA in his one game there pitching six innings of one unearned run ball. In his nine games in Indianapolis, 4-2 2.09 ERA. Sure, these stats are manufactured by facing Minor League talent, but perhaps there is something there that can give him a level of success at the Major League level.
A lot of fans are down on this move because Richard is not seen as a great pitcher, or even one that is very good. But Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have taken chances on fringe pitchers before and have had a lot of success with them. Remember Paul Maholm? How about Scott Feldman? Both those pitchers were seen as dumpster dives as Richard is now. Those signings turned out great, with a lot of help from pitching coach Chris Bosio.
Another “dumpster dive” the Cubs made was actually in a trade which sent Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles for Jake Arrieta. If you remember, while with the Orioles he was not exactly seen as good. With a 5.46 ERA, a 4.72 FIP (Fielder independent pitching) and a 1.472 WHIP, fans were not impressed with this deal. Feldman had been pitching great, and all they got was a struggling pitcher and Pedro Strop, who like Arrieta was less than impressive in his time in the American League.
Epstein and Hoyer did their work scouting all these pitchers, just as they scouted Richard and saw something they liked and believed they could work with. Those pitching moves all worked out for the best, and I am lost about how Epstein and Hoyer could not have earned the Cubs fans trust yet when they make these “Dumpster Dive” moves.
Then you have Jason Hammel, who has never been a great pitcher in his career; except when he has been pitching in Chicago under the watchful eye of Bosio.
Sure, Richard has not had a history of success (like most of these other investments) but I am willing to give him a chance. Bosio is a tremendous pitching coach, he can fix pitchers. Sure, he cannot fix everyone, Edwin Jackson for example; even though he has found success now that he is pitching in relief. This is a chance the Cubs are taking, one that might not work out, but this is not a risk that is worth getting upset over.
However, fans expected more than Richard, saying that the Cubs cannot afford to give games away with pitchers like Richard. My question to them, is what game are they giving away? Someone had to pitch this game, and Richard is now that someone. He is not exactly taking the start away from anyone more dominant. He is taking the start away from Roach, who was not exactly overly impressive in his start against the St. Louis Cardinals. The only other options would have been Travis Wood orJackson, both of whom have proven to be valuable additions to the bullpen after being less than stellar in the rotation.
I am honestly at a loss when I see the anger and disappointment in some fans and cannot fully understand why. The Cubs did not give up anything to get him but money. No star prospect, no fringe bench player, not even a 30 year old low A-ball player. All they gave up was money to take a chance on a pitcher who might be better than what they currently have for that spot. The Cubs obviously have little faith that Roach can do much to help them in the interim, and they needed a quick fix. Trading for Hamels would not be a quick fix unless they cave into the Phillies demands and give up one of their top prospects like Kyle Schwarber as just the main piece which would require more prospects and maybe another top 10.
Perhaps the hatred of this deal stems from him being a former Chicago White Sox. Though likely because this is a move for a player who is not seen as someone who can help as much as some of the other big name pitching prospects that are rumored to be available at some point this season.
In my opinion, this deal for Richard might just be a place holder until another Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are able to make another deal for a more proven starting pitcher. The problem is, that deal might not be there to make.
Earlier, I wrote that the Cubs need to be careful with any move that they make to improve their team. You do not want to completely sacrifice the future to better improve your chances this year; especially not for what might come down to a one game play in contest for the right to take on the recently struggling Cardinals. Something that Paul Sullivan also wrote about with the trade deadline getting closer.
We know that the Philadelphia Phillies are shopping around Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon, but they are also asking for the moon. The Oakland Athletics are said to be interested in trading away some of their talent. Despite having the worst record in the American League are only 6.5 games out of the Wild Card. They might wait a bit longer than you would like before they start dealing away their players.
Even when the other teams begin to throw in the towel, with there now being two Wild Cards in each league, teams remain hopeful for a postseason appearance much longer than in years past. With less and less teams selling to go with more and more teams looking demand far outweighs the supply. The Major League Trade deadline is a seller’s market, and teams with the valuable arms are going to make out like kings when and if they decide to make trades.
Even with a trade getting made, In Sullivan’s article, Epstein would like you to
“recognize the trade deadline is not a panacea”.
You cannot dive into the trade deadline to fix your every issue and make yourself a serious contender. Trades help, but the trade deadline is not a cure all.
Obviously, like all fans, Epstein and Hoyer, want to improve the team to make them as strong of a contender as possible.
“We know what we’d like to do, but we’re realistic about what we might be able to do.”
Epstein realizes that several teams will be looking to add, and even though they have the farm system that can land any talent they want, the cost might not be worthwhile keeping the future of the club in mind. Selling out the team’s future for a play in game might not be the best way to ensure sustained success of a franchise. For proof, look no further than the Athletics.
I know that the only World Series you can win this year, is this year’s World Series. If a chance presents itself you should do all you reasonably can (key word reasonably) in order to win that World Series. But can you consider selling out the future reasonable? Especially when
“If you look at the history of teams that go on and play in the World Series, very rarely is it (because of a) deadline deal”